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Flotation Wall's

Reviewed by Eric Atienza



Nature, the debut album from Ohio four-piece Flotation Walls is a record that is impressive on first listen, but handsomely rewards repeat plays as well.
The reproductively focused "Sperm and Egg" kicks off the album with a glitchy, harp-accented, operatic open giving way to a deceptively simple-sounding accordion-led waltz. The song then proceeds in phases as a tuba bursts in to accent the fertilization theme while gestation hears the return of the harp with a much more subdued vocal and a bit of synth before dropping out in favor of simple chiming. These musical themes repeat as the songs follows a rise and fall of thickness and complexity. The song is masterfully arranged as rhythms recur and yet no musical phrase exactly repeats, culminating in a chorus of background vocals over ambient drumming, shifting the aesthetic from merry-go-round to an epic climax.

As the album flows into track two the contrast of the first track's sweet melodies with the driving bass drum and deathly sinister guitar picking of second track "Worms" provides quite the splash of water/kick in the ass. The song is no less textured than "Sperm and Egg" but is much more dynamic offering subtle time changes throughout but still maintaining a certain ebb and flow between reediness and depth. The darker tones fit the funereal lyrics perfectly and though the subjects of these first two songs are diametrically opposed (first sparks of life vs. final fade of life) they both end in altar-inspired chants.

"Body" and "Willis the Fireman" provide the best one-two punch on the record with the former opening with an auspicious shot of horns which are quickly joined by booming drums creating a gigantic, grandiose framework. Frontman Carlos Avendano fills the space softly with an almost-whispered delivery and the gaps around him are taken immediately by layers of keys, chimes, and drumrolls. It's perfectly paced despite being so packed and deep building a slow crescendo until, at the peak of tension, the song falls into a chilling, goosebump-inducing chasm of trembling violins as the lead vocal belts the richest delivery heard yet on the album. The latter song opens with about a minute and a half of lullaby vocals over lilting guitars and sparse drums before turning on a dime and establishing itself as the most dynamic song on Nature. Driving drums quickly burst out among echoing harmonies, bubbling together in a roiling mix before exploding into a deep, hook-laden, fast-paced, rollicking tune.

"The Sky Ejaculates" works along similar lines starting with a solitary piano backing lonely lead vocals; the duo staggering wearily yet supporting each other through the dark night of loss. As the setup finishes, the song delivers a floating, beautifully flowing verse before settling into dark piano once again this time serving as a launching pad for a ragged, frustrated shout evocative of thunderstorms and desperate measures.

Throughout the album Flotation Walls displays a transcendental command of harmonic backing vocals and the open of "I've Seen Death and his Tremendous Pink Eyes" exhibits the band at their most sacred. After the back-and-forths of previous songs between sweet and acidic, this track serves as the sound of acceptance, resolution, and moving on. That it reaches such stability while remaining aurally inviting and challenging is quite a feat.

The instrumentations on Nature are so compelling that it's easy to slip into a purely auditory listening mode while glossing over the themes of the record. It's an album that revolves around not only life and death (more specifically the processes involved in living and dying) but also the fragments of one in the other. The hope intrinsic to tragedy and the horror involved with dreaming. It's an album that celebrates the affinity of opposites and the beauty that comes with realizing that life is complex and full even in its simplest instants. Each moment is an occasion for both celebration and mourning for after all, what are the stars without the night, or the shade without the sun? This is an incredibly successful record on all fronts: at once lyrically inspiring and musically inspired.

Flotation Walls is currently touring in support of Nature and will be playing an acoustic set at Pete's Candy Store in Williamsburg on July 5th, and an electrified set at the Lit Lounge in the East Village on July 7th.

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